Arthur Beaumont: Art of the Sea

Reviewed by Edward Masso, Rear Admiral, US Navy (Ret)

The state of California has a rich history in producing and displaying some very special art in their numerous museums placed strategically throughout the state. California boasts brilliant and important museums such as: The Norton Simon Museum, Getty Museum, The Historic Catholic Missions, Presidential Libraries of Presidents Nixon and Reagan, The Huntington Library and Nethercutt Museum; just to name a few.

The community of Irvine, California through the benevolence of one of the community founders, Miss Joan (Irvine) Smith, has created the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art to honor and display works of numerous artists whose exhibitions, publications, and other programming enrich the culture of this wonderful community celebrating art, culture, science, and intellectual leadership embodied in the Southern California ethos and spirit.

The Irvine Museum book, Arthur Beaumont “Art of the Sea” is such an example of the museums dedication to publishing the important art of the nearby residents. Arthur Beaumont’s art is synonymous with the United States Navy, the art and science of the sea, and the celebration through art; of the work of all professional mariners.

Arthur Beaumont’s story is one for the ages. He was commissioned to paint portraits of famous Naval leaders such as: Captain Percy Foote (1932), Admiral Frank Schofield, Vice Admiral T.T. Craven and then-Rear Admiral William D. Leahy (and later as a four-star). Admiral Leahy was so enamored with Mr. Beaumont’s art and talent, he orchestrated a formal Naval Commission for him to allow him easy access to paint Naval portraits, ships, and activities in war zones, on ships and aviation squadrons without interruption or restrictions. Now Lieutenant Beaumont became the vicar of Naval Art, painting extraordinary scenes of operations in both war and peacetime operations.

Beaumont’s art was hauntingly original, capturing the full essence of a ship’s soul, involving sailors, surrounding fauna and flora, and behavior of the sea. The first piece of Mr. Beaumont’s art that I personally witnessed was titled; “In the Canal, USS Ranger” (1933) in watercolor. It is stunning in its color and the optic that you were in the woods in close proximity to the Panama Canal, being an eyewitness to the passage of the mighty warship USS Ranger, as it traverses the canal. This is an example of Mr. Beaumont’s unique approach. He captured the view in every possible respect, including that of the observer.

This reviewer grew up in San Clemente, California and Mr. Beaumont was a family friend. He was in my home and I in his (with my parents) and he was very magnanimous in his explanations of how he captured a particular view and what story he wanted to tell. A piece I admired immensely, “All Engines Ahead One Third” A portrait of then-DLG-22, The USS England, he later gifted me upon my Commissioning in the Navy in 1977. I have cherished this piece my entire career.

The man, Arthur Beaumont, was beloved and highly respected by the retired Navy community of Southern California. This book captures his essence magnificently. The art catalogs the Naval History that he had a front-row seat to witness, in a manner that no history book could possibly capture. The reader will be mesmerized by the authenticity of each important statement. This book is a must read and own by anyone who has served in the sea services or enjoys Naval History.

Edward Masso is a retired Rear Admiral who presently serves as the Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation in Washington DC.

Arthur Beaumont: Art of the Sea (Geoffrey Campbell Beaumont, Irvine Museum, Irvine, CA, 2016)